When abroad in China or India, I sometimes take a couple of hours to seek out a cooking lesson from a local. It’s the way I’ve learned how to make hand-made roti, pork buns and papaya salads. But these experiences are one-offs and you’ve got to do your own scouting to figure out who offers them.
Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence, who met at UC Berkeley’s school of business, are building a platform that makes it easier to surface these home-cooked experiences across the world with their new company Traveling Spoon.
They’ve raised $870,000 from investors including the former CEO of Expedia Erik Blachford, George Butterfield, First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund, the Chennai Angels and Emily and Anjan Mitra, who own the DOSA restaurants in San Francisco. Bay Area food icon Alice Waters is also an advisor.
Traveling Spoon is mostly aimed at tourists, not for people who want order meals on a regular basis. You can forage for food in Kyoto or learn how to make bulgogi recipes passed down from grandmother to granddaughter.
“What we’re all about at heart is creating meaningful travel,” Lawrence said. “We’re really looking for people who embody their region and share recipes that are passed down through the generations.”
Lawrence says the company personally vets 100 percent of the hosts. “You have to have an incredible host community to really drive interest and prove the market.”
They typically require hosts to work with cooked vegetables, instead of fresh salads to manage around health issues.
Like on Airbnb, hosts set their own prices and then Traveling Spoon marks up the experience by anywhere from 18 to 35 percent.
Lawrence, who previously worked in international development, says that 90 percent of the platforms’ hosts are women. Many of them are retired.
“These are women who weren’t necessarily bringing in additional income to the family. But now they can do something that they love and really re-engage with a broader community while earning a supplementary income.”